I don’t consider myself a romance writer even though my current work-in-progress has a love story at its heart. Love is part of the human experience and it is rare to find a story that does not have some golden thread of love twisting through its weave.
I think the only thing more difficult than carrying on relationships with others is writing about them. Love is an exhilarating, confusing journey. The maps we have of the territory never quite match up and the directions are all in poetry. Not only do writers have to write about love and sex compellingly, we have to do it in such a way that doesn’t sound stupid.
Have you heard lovers talking to each other? It’s an absurd language. It matches the absurdity of the sex that goes with it. And yet, somehow writers have to put lipstick on that pig.
I have to hand it to romance authors — talk about a tough genre to write. How do you craft an original story, with genuine characters and a believable plot, when you’re tripping over a cliché every time you turn around? How many different ways can you describe a vagina without actually using the word? Yeah, hats off to the women and men who can.
For the rest of us, I think it’s enough to say that love does make the world go ’round and, as writers, we ignore this at our creative peril. Decide how far you want to take it in your book. Do you want the sexual content to be subtle and classy or explicit and erotic? What do you feel comfortable writing? If you’re not sure, see what you’re comfortable reading and use that as a possible guide.
A lot of your decisions will be determined by your genre and your target audience. Read several books in that range to get an idea of what the current expectations are. This is important — thanks to recent series such as Fifty Shades of Grey and Game of Thrones, what used to be unacceptable is now a norm. I’m personally thrilled about that, but you may not be, and you may need to adjust your genre, or story, or intended readership accordingly.
But don’t shy away from incorporating realistic sex or intense emotional relationships in your work. They make life worth living and they breathe that life into your story. Save the shyness for something else.
Like the moment your parents/children read your book and want to talk about that scene. Because, yep, that’s coming.
We had one hell of a time recording our sex episode and actually ended up in some fantastic discussions in addition to our normal sexual banter. Check out the Method and Muse Podcast (Writing Sex Scenes: Is It Hard?) and enjoy a belated Lupercalia with someone you love.